Some Like it Hot…

When entrepreneur Ms. Erja Kämäräinen left her local grocery store after work, the cashier sniffed the air and asked what was that lovely garlic she had in her shopping bag.

“No, I work in a garlic processing plant”, she replied. She had been working all day preparing crushed garlic for her company “Valkoliekki Ltd”, (Finnish for “White Flame Ltd”.)

Erja and her husband, Harri Kämäräinen, took over the plant from Erja’s uncle in 2001 and settled in Kajaani, almost 600 km north of Helsinki.

There are just 6 staff in this company that produces crushed garlic for consumers, restaurants and industry. It has a market share of around 70% in Finland with sales growing steadily.

Food safety is a guiding value. Production safety and quality must be a key objective and the most important guarantee of quality is the well-being of the staff and a reasonable wage.

“We pay our employees a salary that ensures their well-being livelihood, for example, when starting a family. We stay updated and take care. We have long working relationships two of our employees have worked with us for 15 years and another for 10 years.

Everyone is involved in product development. “On the production side, everyone can do everything. When new products  are being developed, everyone is eager to be involved.”

Garlics from Europe. White garlic is imported from Spain and we visit there at least once a year. WE have long-term relationships with the producers, “We’re already friends with families and visiting each other. This makes it easy to discuss things”, says Harri.

Suppliers are certified farmers. “We also carry out spot checks on plantations and production facilities including migrant workers in the fields. The conditions are hot and harsh, but as we see it, working hours and conditions must be reasonable. Occupational safety and health has developed tremendously there”, says Jouni Lahtinen, who manages their suppliers.

The use of Finnish garlic has been considered, but it is still expensive and the availability is limited. “We have been offered batches of a few thousand kilos but we use some 200 000 kilos each year.”

Sustainability. Sorting waste is a daily operation at the factory. The owners are now taking a major leap forward in investing in energy conservation and self-sufficiency with solar cells being installed on the roof.

“Renewable energy is a competitive asset, but initial investment is significant. However, the state supports the transition to solar power. We want to show that even small businesses are worth investing in renewable energy,” says Harri Kämäräinen.

Valkoliekki Oy 

  • Net sales: € 1 million
  • Number of employees: 6
  • Business areas: Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Latvia
  • Main markets: Finland, Exports%: 15%
  • Contact information: Harri Kämäräinen tel. +358 44 533 7557 

Photo: Sinkka Moilanen / SINIKKAFOTO

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